Azamara’s senior VP may have just landed in Australia after two long-haul flights, but Edie Bornstein was bright-eyed and keen to chat about cruising, Rod Stewart and following your passion, during her visit to Sydney earlier this year.
A veteran of the cruise industry, Ms Bornstein has a myriad of roles under her belt including; vice president of business development and strategic partnerships for Carnival Cruise Lines, senior officer for Cunard
and Seabourn and vice president of specialty sales for Amadeus before she was appointed vice president of sales and marketing for Azamara in 2009.
Cruise in Review: You’ve got such a varied background in the cruise industry, what is it
that drew you to cruise in particular?
Edie: Well, that’s a great question. I’m definitely a person who believes in following your passion. From a young girl, my parents always told me that.
I tell my 22-year-old
son that, you know, find your passion and follow it because work becomes life, life becomes work and before you know it the two are intertwined and you don’t even realise it.
From when I was a little girl, my passion was always travel and then within the travel sector I loved cruising. My passion was what led me here and I’ve been really blessed with a thirty-year career. It’s been wonderful!
Cruise in Review: Is it difficult working with Azamara after working for so many other cruise lines that may be considered “competitors”? You’d have such a
place in your heart for them…
Edie: That is another great question. Well, my background is maybe a little bit different in that the genesis of my career was as a travel consultant.
From there, I migrated and I worked for what became Amadeus. In that role, all the cruise lines were my customers and I provided technology solutions for them, many times when they were trying to achieve the same result, but there were a myriad of differences in how they got the result.
So basically, I had to understand on a macro level, the cruise industry, but on a micro level, each and every single cruise line and their goals and objectives.
I often say you’re sort of like the parent of ten kids, you love them all, you love them differently, you know their inner secrets, but you have to keep their secrets.
That relationship with each of them is what caused many CEOs to say, “Edie, come and work for us”. I would say “no, I don’t want to leave one or the other”, until one day Larry Pimantel, who is my boss now, called me and said, “Edie now I’m going to get you to come and
work for me because tomorrow we’re announcing the signing of the (then) USD$800 million world’s largest ocean liner Queen Mary 2 and I want you to come and be my VP here”. And that is what happened.
So, when I went to Cunard, I still stayed friends with the CEOs at the other lines. It’s a friendly, competitive sort of industry and luxury was always my preference, so, as Carnival Corporation evolved and changed, when
Larry called me again to come join him at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., I was delighted because I loved working with him and I loved all of these brands.
The really great thing about the
cruise industry is that that every brand has the same mantra of safety first and everybody provides a great vacation experience.
Getting back into the luxury sector was really near and dear to my heart.
Cruise in Review: What is it that you like most about your current job?
Edie: I love everything about my current job!
Well, first and foremost, I LOVE the brand experience. I do my personal vacations on Azamara Club Cruises. I’m that passionate about what I’m doing that I choose to go on vacation on my own brand.
Most recently, I just came off a Hong Kong to Singapore voyage and it was spectacular, or “Az-amazing”, as I like to say!
What I love about my current job is how we are in a perpetual state of evolution to continue to grow and evolve the brand. The people that I work with are amazing!
I love having the globe as my responsibilities. I just came from the U.K. a couple of weeks ago and am in Australia now, I’ve gone to Germany and Denmark and all these other countries…
Each country approaches selling cruises and ultimately Azamara Cruises, in a different way, so it’s a tremendous global learning experience that I am just passionate about as well.
I just love everything about my job! I really do, I love it!
Cruise in Review: What is it that you want to see improved in the industry?
Edie: I read a recent survey that of all the travellers, everybody in the world who goes on vacation, only 1.6 per cent go on cruises. So, I would like the cruise industry to expand even further.
What’s interesting about Azamara Club Cruises is that, because of our key brand differentiator “destination immersion”, meaning long stays and more overnight touring, just under 22 per cent of our guests have never cruised before. They’re seasoned travellers but yet they were never open to cruising because they had that traditional mindset of they didn’t want to leave a place at 5pm.
So they’re drawn to us for that key brand differentiator. What I would like to see is more travellers around the world come to cruising as their option.
Cruise in Review: Are there are any plans to bring Azamara ships down to Australia?
Edie: We would like to grow the brand, but currently there’s nothing official. In an ideal world, we would like to have more than the two vessels we have today and then, as a result, we’d be positioned to be able to bring ships to this fantastic market, so time will tell.
Cruise in Review: Who do you consider to be your main competitor?
Edie: The boutique hotels around the world. But, having stated that, the consumers and the travel consultants pair us with six cruise brands typically as our “conceived competitors”, and they are Regent, Oceania, Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal and Sea Dream.
Cruise in Review: What do you think sets you apart? Why should someone select Azamara above those “conceived competitors”?
Edie: What sets us apart and makes us different is that key brand differentiator “destination immersion”.
Others, and imitation being the highest form of flattery, claim to now be doing that, but none of them are doing it the way we’re doing it, in the matter in which we’re doing it and with the consistency that we’re doing it.
In fact, in 2013, 100 per cent of our itineraries have late night or overnight stays. If the guest or client wants to experience cruising, but not leave every port at 5 o’clock, they should try us.
When they have a look and they really look at the micro detail of an itinerary, it sells itself.
The other component is the value proposition. We are 15 per cent, on average, lower than any other “cruise competitor” and then when you add that we’re mostly all-inclusive, it becomes a tremendous value proposition.
Cruise in Review: Do you think that Azamara will become all-inclusive?
Edie: In America we have the saying, “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it”.
We are getting phenomenal ratings, so the inclusions we have are phenomenal and the guest are very happy. With alcohol as an example, they can purchase the liquor packages and then have their version of all-inclusive.
So no complaints today, it’s working beautifully and everybody’s winning today. But nonetheless we constantly evaluate and we constantly evolve, the jury is still out on that decision. We’re not sure yet.
Cruise in Review: Who do you admire as a role model within the cruise industry in particular?
Edie: Definitely Richard Fain and Larry Pimental, my chairman and my CEO…and not because they’re both my bosses!
These are two men who have been in this industry for many decades and I think they’ve made incredible contributions to the industry. I think of Richard Fain’s passion for safety at sea and the environment and I think of Larry’s passion for luxury and evolving the cruise industry and the luxury sector.
Cruise in Review: You travel extensively but do you have any destinations still on your bucket list?
Edie: I do! I have to tell you, at 50 years old, I have travelled to probably 90 countries around the world and to all seven continents, but I still have many I haven’t gone to. There are many places that I haven’t been yet. A couple of those places would be Morocco, Egypt and Jordan.
Cruise in Review: Very exotic! What would be the most memorable cruising experience that you’ve had?
Edie: Well that’s a good question and I go back to what I was saying about the mother of ten kids trying to pick her favourite, I love everywhere I go, I just love them differently.
I would think my favourite would probably be last summer. We went on a 12-night voyage along Italy and the Mediterranean where just about every night was a late night or an overnight.
Going to places like Capri and Sorrento and staying late and not having to unpack, I think it was my most memorable because I love Italy and I hate packing, so it was the perfect combination!
Cruise in Review: Speaking of packing, what are three things that you must always take with you when you cruise?
Edie: Oh…that’s another good question!
My Blackberry. I don’t leave home without it! Because our ships are totally WiFi, I can stay in touch.
With my job, I don’t know how to disconnect even though my boss yells at me and tells me I should try to!
Comfortable shoes to walk in. I’m a stilettos kind of girl but when I’m on holiday, I want to be in thongs and sandals.
And the third thing….it should be my gym clothes.
Cruise in Review: That should not be in your top three!
Edie: No, it’s not! I want it to be, but it’s not! Ok, the other thing that I must take…My make up.
Cruise in Review: Name someone famous that you would love to take on a cruise.
Edie: Rod Stewart or Russell Crowe. I love Rod Stewart’s music and I LOVE Russell Crowe!
He’s such a bad boy! Australia has gorgeous people!
Rod Stewart called me on stage during my girl’s getaway in Las Vegas to celebrate my 50th birthday last year! I was in the first row and he was singing to me because the venue was very small, and when he finished the song he said, “would the beautiful birthday girl in the red satin dress please join me on stage?”
Other than the birth of my now 22-year-old son, it was the second most drop dead memorable day of my life!
I’ve loved him since I was 12 years old and I’ve seen him all over the world…200 times!
Originally written by Natalie Aroyan for e-Travel Blackboard